Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘Madryn McCabe’

In Conversation with Julia Aplin & Jacquie PA Thomas of “The Hum” at the 2015 SummerWorks Festival

Interview by Madryn McCabe

“Listen. Can you hear it?”

We sat down with Julia Aplin, one of the performers and creators of The Hum, a theatrical experience she co-created with her partner, John Gzowski, and their daughter, 10 year old Jenny Aplin.

MM: Why don’t you tell us a little bit about your show?

JA: It’s called The Hum. I created it with my partner, John, and our daughter, Jenny and it’s based on Jenny’s drawings, which have come out of family discussions about books that we’re reading, and ideas that we’re talking about. A lot of her drawings are of the outdoors, from camping trips and her experience even with wildlife in the backyard, so we’ve extrapolated stories and ideas from all of that and put it all together.

MM: Is the show based off of one particular drawing?

JA: No. I remember there was one meeting between Jacquie (Thomas, The Hum’s director) and myself in my kitchen and there was a drawing that Jenny had done stuck on the fridge of a woman who was sitting in the sun, curled up. And Jacquie said, “That’s really interesting. What is that?” It was a drawing Jenny had done from a book. She has a children’s book called We Are Stardust, and I have another book called The Universe Within, which has the same kind of information, but mine was more of a scientific adult book, so we discussed the ideas, and then Jenny drew this woman in the sun. We are stardust, scientifically. The materials in our bodies, everything that we’re made of is from stars, and she knows that, and that our sun is a star, so she put it all together into this drawing of a woman in the sun.

John Gzowski & Julia Aplin photo by Yulia Kovaleva

John Gzowski & Julia Aplin photo by Yulia Kovaleva

 

MM: What kind of story can we expect to see?

JA: There are some stories from when I was a kid, there are some stories of Jenny and her pet snails that she found in the garden, there are some stories of John trying to explain scientifically from a sound designer’s point of view how the earth might hum. The way we work is pretty abstract; this is the most story based piece we’ve ever done. There are a lot of emotional, dance, music moments where John plays music and I dance.

MM: It doesn’t sound like it’s the kind of theatre that lends itself to a very traditional ‘we have a script and we rehearse scene by scene’ approach. Can you talk about the elements that we might see in the show?

JA: The main elements are dance, music and there’s actually text in the show too, which is rare for me. I usually have little bits of text, but this is a big step having chunks of text, that I wrote. It’s pretty exciting. Jenny wrote her monologue and John wrote his monologue and almost all the music.

MM: Jenny is in the show as well?

JA: Yes, she is. Performing, dancing, talking, drawing. Another huge element is her drawings. She does some live drawing, which is projected, and we’ve also taken some of her other drawings that she’s done and animated them. We used The Woman with the Water, because she’s talking about the concept that the same water that’s in the lakes is the same water that we drink is the same water that’s in our bodies. We’ve got an amazing animation of The Woman with the Water, so that’s onstage with us.

MM: Is this the first time that you’ve collaborated with your family?

JA: John and I have collaborated a lot before. In fact, we first performed together at TPM in the backspace together, Quartet by Eugene Stickland. That was about nineteen years ago. Since then, we’ve done a lot of collaborations. Mostly, John composes for them, and I’m either choreographing or dancing, so this is new for us, to collaborate as a family. I’ve worked with Jenny before as a teacher, choreographing a piece for her dance class or something like that, but never with her as a fellow artist. We’re really including her artistic point of view on this.

MM: I’m really getting the impression that Jenny is an equal partner in the creative process.

JA: Exactly.

MM: Is this something that you’re focusing for a younger audience or do you feel like this is a piece for everyone?

JA: My hope is that it won’t exclude anyone. So the kids that come will have an “in” to what’s going on, but also that the adults don’t feel like they’re watching Barney the Dinosaur. I hope that it speaks on different levels. The three of us are together on different levels. We have a 10 year old, and we have–I won’t say how old (she laughs)–so between all of our different points of view, we hope to be pretty inclusive.

Julia Aplin, Jenny Aplin & John Gzowski photo by Yulia Kovaleva

Julia Aplin, Jenny Aplin & John Gzowski photo by Yulia Kovaleva

MM: Do you think you’ll collaborate with your family again?

JA: That might be a question to ask me in a week or two! (she laughs) I’m sure we will. We won’t be able to help ourselves.

MM: Where does the title The Hum come from?

JA: Have you ever read The Bone series? It’s an awesome set of graphic novels by Jeff Smith. We read the first one and kept going and it became this obsession in our family. There are characters in there who talk about The Hum Hum and there’s this one character named Thorn who does this (places two fingers to her forehead) and she can feel all kinds of things. We’d go walking in the forest and do it too, and when we heard the word, it clicked that it was a word for everything we were already feeling, and then The Hum became a catch word for something that we already knew.

We know something in our bodies. Our bodies come from this earth and we’ve been here in this form for 10,000 years. But if you keep going back through evolution, back to when your mom’s mom was a fish, that’s where we’re from. If you really go deep, you can hear that, and that’s The Hum. In our modern world, we don’t really listen to it, but now science is showing us that ‘oh this is actually, really true’. We really are from stardust, we really are connected to the earth, and the scientific principles are coming forward and people now are like, “ohhhh”. Maybe we should have known this all along.

(At this point, director Jacquie PA Thomas, artistic director of Theatre Gargantua, who are co-producing The Hum as part of the SideStream Cycle joins us, and she adds this to the conversation):

JT: This is a unique family. It’s a family of two well established and beautiful artists coming from different backgrounds, who both dabble in other artistic realms. Julia is also a musician and John does some instrument making and design. When I first proposed the idea, I thought it would be exciting to understand from a child’s perspective what it was like growing up in a family of artists.

I knew that Jenny was a drawer and we’d seen some of her work, which was really quite remarkable for such a young age. I’ve known John and Julia for over twenty years and we’ve collaborated on a number of shows, so the artistic relationship goes back years. Our new stream of performances, which we are calling SideStream Cycle allows associate artists time and space to explore something freely and offers them the opportunity to experiment with form and content. Julia had never actually performed specifically as an actor, she’s never really written anything professionally for the stage, and we’ve discovered during this process that she’s a really beautiful writer. John has never, ever acted in his life, and he’s quite charming on the stage, and of course their daughter, in terms of where the ideas came from for the piece, they all sprang from her drawings. When you look at Jenny’s drawings, a lot of them are of these beautiful, strong women who have tree branches as veins, or a winged- woman looking into the sun and she has fire coming out of her. She has this really interesting way of looking at the world, and I thought that was a good beginning point. What’s it like growing up in a family of artists, and a child’s perspective on not only family, but connections to art, connections to life, connections to the world. It seemed like a really amazing opportunity for us to explore these wonderful artists.

 

The Hum

presented as part of the 2015 Summerworks Festival

11695779_922877054437936_21031712276711712_n

Julia Aplin, John Gzowski & Julia Aplin photo by Jacquie PA Thomas

Tickets:

Online: summerworks.ca

In Person: At the SummerWorks box office at Factory Theatre & At the door of Theatre Passe Muraille, one hour before show time.

When:

Monday August 10, 4:45pm

Sunday August 16 2pm

Where:

Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace, 16 Ryerson Avenue

Advertisements

An Interview on Theatre Archturus’ – Weïrd – An immersive original take on the witches of Macbeth

Interview by Madryn McCabe

I sat down with director Philip Psutka and actors Lindsay Bellaire, Lindsay Sippen Eitzen and Polly Phokeev to chat about their show, Weïrd, an immersive original take on the witches of Macbeth.

MM: Tell me a little bit about Weïrd.

Philip: Weïrd focuses on the witches of Macbeth and tells the story of Macbeth from the witches perspective. Essentially, what mistakes they make in picking Macbeth in the first place, and then what they have to do to go about fixing that. We use aerial silks whenever the witches are doing a charm or whenever they’re using any sort of force of nature or anything like that.

MM: Is aerial silks a medium that Theatre Arcturus often works in?

Philip: Yes. Basically any sort of rigorous element that we work with, silks or any sort of aerial apparatus are a huge part of it. And the big thing with us is, we’re not so much a movement or physical theatre company where we want to use silks or another discipline to, for instance, take a break from the story and focus on a character, focus on a moment or a character’s internal journey and express that through the silks. What we want to do is incorporate the physical discipline into the scenes, continuing the story, while dialogue is going on, having interactions between characters. So it’s less of taking a moment in time and looking at, for instance, an internal journey, rather it’s actually physically incorporating the silks as the main set of the piece into what the characters are trying to achieve in the moment, with each other. So overall, it’s really continuing the storytelling.

Lindsay B: We try to keep it fluid and try to avoid making it disjointed or making it seem contrived. We’re really trying to mesh them together in a seamless way.

Weu00EFrd Totem

MM: So you interact with the silks in the way actors interact with the furniture onstage or with props onstage?

Linsday B: Yeah. Or sometimes with a character. Because [the silks] do move, and you have to be able to react to those kinds of things. Something that I discovered through the process was realizing how much it was going to be like having another person there. Usually the set is stagnant. You pick up a prop and put it down, and it stays there. Whereas with this, the slightest breeze will move the silks, and your own movement will have a ripple effect through it, and that changes the way you have to react to it, constantly.

Polly: And it’s really interesting inheriting the silks. Let’s say Lindsay’s done a charm, and then the next person who approaches the silks has to deal with the way they’re all twisted up and the directions in which they’ve gone. When we were rehearsing in isolation, it was a non issue. The silks would be straight down but then it’s interesting to go into that again. 

MM: I know that Lindsay B has trained in silks. Have the rest of you trained as well?

Lindsay SE: Nope, just with this process! (laughs) 

MM: So how did you get mixed up in this crazy business?

Lindsay SE: I don’t know! (laughs) I’m friends with Lindsay and Phil and they asked me to be a part of the project. Partially, I think, because they know that I am passionate about creating things and taking a very physical approach to theatre, which I think is really cool and really important. I thought the silks were a brilliant idea. I said, “That sounds amazing! It’s going to be so cool!” And I knew it was going to be hard, but I didn’t really just HOW difficult it was going to be. I’m like, “I didn’t know I owned those muscles!” Whenever you see someone performing aerial silks or circus arts or anything like that, they just make it look so easy. We realize that they’re working, but I don’t think people realize just HOW hard it is, even to just get off the ground.

Polly: You have had more time than I have to start learning how to do the silks, and I’m ecstatic when I can even get an inch off the ground, so I’m so impressed with what Lindsay B can do. The way I got involved in the project is stage combat. I know Dan Levinson from Rapier Wit, where I did my Intermediate with them last June, and he knows Phil, who did his Advanced with them, so that’s our connection.

Philip: That fits right in with our company. It’s not just circus arts or aerial silks, but it is really rigorous physical discipline. So we’ve got an aerial performer in the show [Lindsay B], we’ve got someone with a lot of experience with dance [Lindsay SE] and then we’ve got someone who has a lot of experience training with stage combat [Polly]. We’ve got three separate physical disciplines that we’ve been able to incorporate into the same piece, and it’s been amazing how well the three of them have actually flowed together, how seamlessly they’ve worked together as part of the whole piece. I feel like the reason why it has worked so well that way is that whenever we are focusing on a moment where one of those disciplines or one of those physical aspects is really coming out, we keep going back to the text. We go back to “how is this actually forwarding the story? How are we staying in the scene? How is this not stepping out and being its own thing?” So as a result, we’ve worked the scenes and we look at them afterwards, and there’s this moment of realizing “Oh, right, you did some aerial in there, you did some dance, and there was even some stage combat in there” and we realized we couldn’t actually tell where one started and one began. At least not consciously, because all we see is the full scene and what’s progressing with the story.

Lindsay B: It’s interesting how much ground work in dance and movement [Lindsay SE] has been working on while I’m thinking vertically, and having Polly always being on us about text. Which has been very helpful to always be pulling it back to “Why are we doing that?” text-wise and character-wise. We have a fight scene in there, and it’s my first fight scene. It’s been really interesting for me because I’m learning things too.

Lindsay SE: I just wanted to comment briefly because you touched on the text and I wanted to say how cool it is that we’re using all text from Macbeth. It’s the witches’ scenes, and we’ve pulled a little bit of text from other scenes that fits into the story that we’re telling. It’s all from the story, it’s all from Macbeth.

IMG_20141011_143944

MM: So there’s no original text?

Philip: No original. Basically, we have the witches scenes from the actual play. We’ve even changed those up a little bit. Sometimes there are lines from other parts of the play added in, but we also have the moments with the witches where we DON’T see them in Macbeth. It’s ‘what is happening in between those scenes?’ and those scenes in our piece are what’s formed out of text from other scenes in the play itself that other characters say. Sometimes it’s been an entire page almost of Shakespearean text that another character says literally the way it is, that could transfer to the witches’ story perfectly, and we have moments where we have four lines, and each of those lines have words from different parts of the play to form the line. Some of them are very quick jumps from one part of the text to the other, but it all works seamlessly so it is the story of the witches, whether we’re used to seeing them in Macbeth, or whether it’s some place or time that we’re seeing in between that’s completely new.

MM: So how did you come up with this concept? I’ve not heard of anything like this happening before. There are physical-based theatre companies, but none that seem to be so text focused.

Philip: Amazing! That’s great to hear. We originally thought of the idea for this show because we were talking about the possibility of working with a pop-up theatre company who was looking for some stuff, and the only information we could get from them about what they might want from us is ‘some aerial, maybe some other physical stuff, maybe some classical text, you know, everything, whatever’. So we were like, ‘okay, we need to figure out something that works that will play to our strengths, the aerial, Shakespeare, classical text, and we can develop a piece that will work outside or inside, where we can set up the rig literally in any space, and have either part of the show work if it’s a ten minute version that they want, or a full length show’ so we started working with the idea of the witches because that made the most sense in terms of things that we could think of off the top of our heads that was Shakespeare that would be easy to incorporate in terms of silks in a very believable way that they audience could buy into. So we just started working on it on our own, and then we thought ‘fuck it, let’s do it on our own!’ Which is great, because when we have other opportunities, like if we wanted to do it at events, it’s a very easy piece to adapt sections to that. 

MM: For something that seems so complex, you guys are talking about it as though it’s very easy and fluid.

Lindsay SE: Well, sure there are challenges of course, but I don’t think there was anything that was super hard to pull in and have to work really hard to make something work in terms of the storytelling. I feel like the storytelling isn’t a stretch.

Polly: Like with anything, you compartmentalize and then you work bits and it comes together, layer by layer. Like a cake.

Philip: And everyone has endured the weather with us.

Lindsay SE: We’ve been lucky, I think, to work outside for a lot of the rehearsals. It’s been really neat to have the challenges in terms of weather and wind and rain. I think it all added to the process, because in the play, the witches scenes take place outside, so it’s just added a lot to what we’ve been able to do.

Lindsay B: And we’ve been playing to people in their apartments. It’s been a very communal experience. We’ve met so many people in our building because of it. We even drew out another aerialist! There’s another aerialist who lives in the building which I found out because I had my rig up and she was so interested. We’ve been working with our feet in the dirt. We’ve got such a great cast. Sometimes it’s wet. Sometimes it’s muddy. I wish I could provide a better space and it’s like, ‘sorry guys, please slog through this with us, we have no budget’ but it’s been a cool experience and we’ve found amazing people with really good attitudes.

MM: How would you sum up Weïrd?

Linsday B: Sisterhood.

Polly: Collaboration.

Philip: Immersive.

Lindsay SE: Storytelling.

Weïrd

Presented by Theatre Arcturus

Weu00EFrd Poster Final Small

Deal: Bring your Weïrd ticket to Mill Street Brew Pub or Beer Hall before or after the performance on the day of the performance to receive 15% off food!

When: Shows Oct 17 8pm, Oct 18 2pm, 8pm, and Oct 19 2pm, 8pm.

Where: Playing at the Ernest Balmer Studio in the Distillery Historic District

CAST
Witch 1………………………….Lindsay Bellaire
Witch 2……………………Lindsay Sippel Eitzen
Witch 3…………………………….Polly Phokeev
ARTISTIC TEAM
Director……………………………Phillip Psutka
Stage Manager……………Alexandra Brennan
Choreographer…………………Lindsay Bellaire
Fight Director……………………..Phillip Psutka

Tickets:  http://www.theatrearcturus.ca/en/shows/runs-october-17–19-tickets-now-available

“A Harmful Bit of Fun” – Interview with Richard Harte on One Little Goat’s Ubu Mayor

Interview by Madryn McCabe

MMC: Could you tell me a little bit about the show? 

Richard Harte: UBU Mayor is a collision between Alfred Jarry’s outrageous 1896 masterpiece, Ubu Roi, and the dizzying world of Toronto’s mayoral politics. So instead of the king from Jarry’s play, we have a mayor (Ubu) whose wife (Huhu) is having an affair with his older brother (Dudu). Ubu wants Huhu to love him again; Ubu wants what’s best for the city; but both his love and political ideals are foiled by brother Dudu’s machinations.

MMC: What inspired the merging of the Ubu Roi story and the Ford brothers? 

RH: I think Jarry’s original play, which scandalized audiences in 1896, is a natural fit with the antics of the Ford brothers, which have of course scandalized Toronto and beyond. The One Little Goat twitter account  has been putting up quotations from the original Ubu Roi and the Ford brothers, and it’s hilarious (or alarming) how similar their language resembles each other.

MMC: What makes this a “play with music” instead of a “musical”? 

RH: I think I have this right – Adam Seelig, playwright and director of One Little Goat, intended on writing strictly a play, but soon found himself at his piano writing a song about bacon. So there was an organic transformation from a play, to a play with songs in it. I don’t think he intended to write a musical at all! That being said, i think the musical elements have come together extremely well, both serving the story of UBU Mayor, and also because we have an ace band, led by Tyler Emond on bass, Jeff Halischuk on drums, and our director Adam on piano.

(L-R) Astrid Van Wieren, Michael Dufays, Richard Harte, and Adam Seelig.

(L-R) Astrid Van Wieren, Michael Dufays, Richard Harte, and Adam Seelig.

MMC: What were the challenges in putting this show together? 

RH: From my perspective, the challenges lay in discovering how a brand new play works, hearing it for the first time, trying out new songs, having the voices of three different performers blend together, and remembering how to bring a story to life. Believe me, all of these challenges are challenging, but they’re also extremely fun. Not a day went by in the rehearsal hall that wasn’t filled with laughter. My comrades in this play are Michael Dufays, who plays the mayor’s brother, and Astrid Van Wieren, the mayor’s wife, and they are simply wonderful company, inventive, playful, and generous. I gush, I know.

MMC: I hear there’s bacon in the show, actually cooked onstage. Can you tell me more about it, or will that give away a major surprise? 

RH: Initially the plan was to cook bacon during the course of the play. We discovered it wasn’t feasible, so it is instead accomplished with a little theatre magic (or rather, with the magic of pre-made bacon).

MMC: Is there anything else you’d like your audience to know? 

RH: I think they’ll have a great time! 9 shows only! Call 416 915 0201 – no service fees!

MMC: Sum up the show in five words or less! 

RH: I’m going to cheat here – the playwright has given me this one right in the title: A harmful bit of fun.

Ubu Mayor poster

**One Little Goat is running a promo called “Gravy Train” Sundays!** 
“Gravy Train” Sundays: $15.00 tickets to UBU MAYOR on Sun Sept 14 & 21.
Book tickets by phone (416) 915-0201 (no service fees), online, or in person (also no service fees).

Connect with One Little Goat: @1LGoat

Website: http://onelittlegoat.org/ubu-mayor/

Connect with ITGR writer Madryn McCabe: @FuriousMAD

2014 Fringe Interview – Spilling Family Secrets – GoodSide Productions

Interview by Madryn McCabe

I had the chance to talk to Susan Freedman, performer and creator of her one woman show, Spilling Family Secrets, an intimate retelling of her parents’ 80 year love story.

MM: Why don’t you tell me a little bit about your show?

SF: It’s a show about my parents 80 year old love letters and their love story. I also talk about my own marital misadventures and about my daughter’s marriage too. Family secrets are revealed!

MM: Why do you want your audiences to hear and see such personal stories?

SF: If people relate my stories to themselves and their lives in some way, then they feel connected to what’s happening onstage. The hope is that they will feel connected to my story. This is my fourth Fringe show and all of them have been filled with personal stories. I’m not a particularly forthcoming person in “real life” but I don’t find it difficult to be open on stage. And, of course, any personal issues or revelations onstage have been resolved long-ago in my real life.

MM: You tell your parents’ love story while intermingling yours’ and your daughter’s love stories as well. Why not just tell your parents’ story? Why was it important to include three generations?

SF: We are all affected by our parents so greatly and I was certainly affected by how easy my parents made marriage look. My daughter’s caution was, in large part, due to how difficult I made marriage look. I could have made the show just about my parents but I felt it showed how we’re shaped by our parents to do it this way. And – there are only so many letters you can read onstage!

MM: Why do you think your mother gave you these love letters after so many decades?

SF: She gave me the letters because she thought I had already read them. And she knew I was very interested in them. I had really just read a couple of them.   I tell myself she was aware of what I might do with them. But I’m not at all sure of that.

MM: Have you edited or fictionalized any parts of the letters or stories?

SF: I edited the letters a great deal. When I transcribed them they filled 75 pages – single spaced type. Not great for a Fringe show – or for theatre at all. I fictionalized absolutely nothing. All stories and letters are completely true.

MM: Have you learned anything new about your parents after reading all their love letters? What surprised you? How has it affected you? 

SF: I learned so much from reading the letters. They were written mostly when my parents were from 19 to 25 years old. What a joy to get to know your parents before they were your parents! I was surprised by what an incredible romantic my father was. The love letters made me laugh and cry. They still do.

MM: What has been the reaction from your family members? 

SF: The family members who have seen it are very, very happy with it. My sister will have seen it five times during my Toronto run! My brother hasn’t seen it yet, but will when it gets to Winnipeg.

MM: What kinds of reactions have you been getting from your audiences?

SF: They seem to be completely engaged in the show and very touched by the story. They laugh throughout the show and many people tell me they are teary at the end.

MM: Anything else you’d like us to know? 

SF: I love doing this show. I’m the only one, other than my parents, who has read the letters so I feel privileged to be able to share parts of them. I’ll send my family the transcriptions at the end of this Fringe season.

Spilling Family Secrets

Presented by GoodSide Productions as part of the 2014 Toronto Fringe Festival

susanreadsletter300dpi

Picture of Susan Freedman by Dina Goldstein

Where: The Tarragon Solo Room

When:

July 02 at 06:30 PM
July 04 at 04:45 PM
July 05 at 06:45 PM
July 06 at 02:45 PM
July 08 at 03:15 PM
July 09 at 04:45 PM
July 11 at 03:30 PM
July 12 at 08:00 PM

Show length: 45min.

Genre(s): Comedy

This performance is not accessible for non-English speakers

Website:  www.susanfreedman.ca

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/619801868127212/?ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming

Twitter: Susan Freedman @BeachAcre16

 

A Few Words with Rena Polley on The Chekhov Collective’s “The Seagull”

Interview by Madryn McCabe

We sat down with Rena Polley, producer and actor of The Chekhov Collective’s The Seagull, to discuss the Michael Chekhov technique, theatre in Toronto and what makes The Seagull so special.

MM: The production part of The Seagull is incredible. 

RP: The support team was made up of brilliant people, they’re all award winning, but they had never done theatre before. I got them involved because they’re friends of mine. Rob Gray has won Genies and Geminis. He literally finished filming two weeks ago, came home, pulled in every favour to get the set built, even painted it himself (and it’s been years since he’s done that) and he leaves tomorrow to go to Bucharest for six months, so he very kindly did all this. And it was a learning curve for him. The first time he built the set, it was flat. And Peggy [the director] said, “oh no, it has to be like a W, and this way” so they all learned something because it’s different in film. So, he built this beautiful set. He had it go from something very formal, until it moves across the stage and eventually it disintegrates. Kind of like the play. And the music! Rob [Bertola, Music and Sound Design] is an Emmy and multi award winning sound designer for film, he just finished David Cronenberg’s film, and he’d never really done theatre before either. He came up with the song that’s the theme song. It’s based on an old Russian theme song, but it was rerecorded in the 60’s by The Seekers, and it became this huge popular hit. It’s called “The Carnival is Over”. So he did the reverse; it starts deconstructed and then moves the opposite, so that by the curtain call, the song is sung with full song and lyrics. And Oh Susanna did the music. So it starts deconstructed and ends up full, and the set does the opposite, it starts full and ends up deconstructed as you go across. The lighting designer is Blue Rodeo’s lighting designer. He’d never done theatre before. He finished the Blue Rodeo tour Monday night and was in the theatre Tuesday morning. He’d only seen a run through once. But he’s so brilliant! And Comrags were friends of mine too.

1966802_549145408532794_1292794745_n

MM: Your costumes are works of art!

RP: Comrags had an army of people building all this! Judy [Cornish, Comrags] said, “do you mind if I do the costumes?” I said, “Of course!” and then Joyce [Gunhouse] her partner in the company got involved, and then Joyce’s sister Judy and sewers and interns, and when we all saw the level of the costumes we thought “Uh oh. We’d better up our game!” Everybody felt that. Everybody came with an extraordinary level of work. And it made us up our game as well. And then Peggy came so prepared. She dreamt two ideas. And that was 1) The play within the play. Using the frame, using this kind of deconstructed way of telling a story. Peggy and I did teacher training in New York and our flight got canceled. So we ended up sin Manhattan for two days, and we went to the Museum of Modern Art. There was a show on all these artists that used deconstruction, and we kept seeing references to the frame. Peggy said, “that’s what I want to do at the beginning”. We tried it at a weekend workshop, and she knew it was going to work. We brought in Ellie Hyman from New York, who is a Chekhov person, but also a Viewpoints person, so she did this stuff with us, and we transferred the actors over from Ellie to Peggy. It’s hard as a director to come in to an ensemble that has been working together for a year. She only had three weeks to shape this play. It’s a big play, an epic play. The final image that she came with is when Konstantin rips the papers. Everybody always has him throw the pieces in the air, and she had him stuff them into his clothes, so that he leaves nothing behind. He takes all his writings with him. And it’s such a beautiful, poetic image. So she came with these two very strong ideas that bookend the piece. And she kept hearing rhythms. She could tell when vocally we’d drop the beat and then come up again. She’d say, “Push it. Keep driving it. There’s a pause coming, and you have to earn it.” And you can see these quiet moments in the production. She could really hear the rhythm of the piece, and wanted to honour that. She used Viewpoints from Ellie. She didn’t call it blocking, she called it composition. There are ten actors. There’s a lot to do!

1743632_549145551866113_346019769_n

MM: When you said it was an epic play it really made me think of the number of actors in the play. The nature of the way theatre in Toronto gets produced these days means that ten actors are unheard of. 

RP: Ten big personality characters, and ten big personality actors, that I had empowered, for better or for worse, so everybody had an opinion. Peggy had to really set up a very strong structure for the rehearsal process. We had done all of this Chekhov work and it was all sort of loose and game playing and improv and playing with text, but not making choices about text because that’s directorial. Creating the world of the characters and then when we got to the rehearsal space, it was very traditional. I thought we could continue this process more, but I realized Peggy was right. There’s a three week rehearsal process, there’s a story to tell, and you have to get through each act. We got through each act quite quickly in a big sweep because of the work we had done, and then Peggy went in a worked smaller sections. There was more of a traditional work space. We looked at beats, we looked at text, and objectives. But she would bring in Chekhov vocabulary of “what’s the Atmosphere of this act?” We could get to it quickly because we had been training in that philosophy.

1932373_545819228865412_909286969_n

MM: How did this group of people all come together?

RP: I keep saying that we all worked for a year together, but we really didn’t. Every two or three months we did a three day intensive workshop. So that allowed us to do a lot of stuff, but then let things simmer during that time. And people have lives and shows and lots of stuff going on. So we maybe met three or four times for three or four days each time. In the last month we met every Monday. I knew I wanted to look at this play, and I wanted to see how far I could take the Michael Chekhov technique. Having studied it, I thought, “Okay, I’ve got to put my money where my mouth is”. What this process allowed us to do was to keep expanding and asking questions, instead of contracting and making choices quickly. That was the gift of this process. And even if you look at the program, Peggy talks about how it starts in expansion and ends in contraction. We can use the words of Chekhov. It’s been a really extraordinary process. The question I posed to myself at the beginning was “how far can I take this?” and what I learned is that you can use it all the way through to the end, but you’d better bring along other things as well. There’s a reason the Stanislavski technique is still surviving. It needs to be expanded, and other things looked at, but the ideas of beats, objectives, text analysis is really important, and you need to combine it with the Chekhov work. At some point in the process, you’ve got to throw out the head and let the body speak because it has a bigger vocabulary, but then bring the head back in.

MM: What I found really interesting is that they play is over 150 years old, but it’s still so relevant. 

RP: Every time someone reads this play, they say to me, “It reminds me of Facebook” or we had an athlete in the audience, and she said that Trigoren’s speech about loving the writing process but hating it when it’s published is how every athlete feels when they train. So it speaks to everyone. What we’ve discovered about this play is that there’s no bottom. We could explore this for five more years. For a nanosecond, I thought about modernizing it, but I thought, no, let’s make the audience do a bit of the work. Let them make the leap, put the dots together. Because it’s all there. It’s a story about desire, art, the heart, human nature, relationships, and family. All these things are universal. They’re timeless. We agreed it was best to tell this story simply, and through the heart. Let the play speak for itself. We tried not to add things or colour it.

1907954_549145718532763_1607372493_n

MM: I see the program that you have adapted the play.

RP: I knew I wanted to cut the play, so I looked at about seven different translations. I wanted to make the language accessible, but not too modern. Some of the formality of the language is from the play, but I didn’t want it to be archaic either. I wanted to keep the names simple so that we’re not calling each other by three different names. I trimmed.

MM: There’s also a very strong feeling of the ensemble.

RP: We did that over time, but I also think the Chekhov work can speed that up in a rehearsal. I really want to put this process into the rehearsal process. I’d like to offer myself to directors and say “give me an hour of your day, every day, and I can really help you move this process along. I can help the ensemble, I can help the atmosphere, I can help actors drop into characters”. But rehearsals are short, directors don’t know what it is. I’ve offered a few times and heard no. I understand that, but I think the Chekhov technique can make that happen faster. We had the luxury of time, and I had them do all kinds of things. In the first intensive weekend, I had them read the play and write down images of the play. I collected them, we played with them. We came up with themes, we came up with the set design, I had them come up with one line describing the play, because I wanted them to think about more than their character. I wanted them to take ownership of the play. Sometimes as actors, we just highlight our lines and look at our part in reference to the play. It’s safer. We want to protect ourselves. So I wanted to blow that away, and give responsibility for the play to the actors. We did build the ensemble over time, but I think it could have happened much faster if all we had was the three week rehearsal process. I really want to encourage people to look to the Michael Chekhov technique because I think there’s something in it that every actor, director, designer can use.

10007014_546792548768080_176468322_n

For more information about the Michael Chekhov Technique, visit michaelchekhovcanada.com

For tickets to The Seagull, visit thechekhovcollective.com

The Memo: A Satire of Bureaucracy

Interview by Madryn McCabe

I interviewed Tyler Seguin, director, and Helen Juvonen, producer and actor, of Thought for Food’s “The Memo” to talk about the show and their intriguing Kickstarter campaign.

MM: Why don’t you tell me a little bit about The Memo?

HJ: The Memo is a play by Vaclav Havel and we are presenting the Canadian premiere of a translation by Paul Wilson, who is also Canadian. I call it a satire of bureaucracy. What do you call it?

TS: A workplace comedy.

HJ: A workplace comedy! Plot wise, it’s in this nameless organization, which is probably a government agency of some kind, but we never actually find out what they do or what their function is. The main character, Andrew Gross, receives this memo, written in Ptydepe, which is an artificial language that has been introduced into the organization to streamline office communication and he spends the rest of the show trying to get it translated because he doesn’t understand it.

MM: And that’s the irony of the situation and he can’t read the memo and it’s supposed to streamline communication. 

TS: Exactly! And very few people in the organization know the language, and those who do know it are under mounds of red tape, so that they can’t actually do any translations for anyone.

MM: What was it about this play that made you want to produce it?

HJ: I produced a previous translation in 1999. Then, when CanStage was doing Rock and Roll, Paul Wilson was consulting on it.

TS: Rock and Roll was partially about a Czech rock band called The Plastic People of the Universe. Paul Wilson was the lead singer and guitarist for this rock band for a number of years during the 70s. Because he’s Canadian, he was deported for being seditious. This rock band became sort of a focal movement, and focal point of the dissident movement of the anti-Communist uprising. And that’s how he met Havel.

HJ: So Paul Wilson was a consultant on the production at CanStage, and in his bio, it said that he was currently working on a translation of this play. And went “Gasp! I have to do this play! I have to get my hands on this play!” And Tyler tracked down an email and said that we’d like to do the translation and he put us in touch with Havel’s literary agent in the Czech Republic and we got a copy of the new translation.

MemoStillsEditsII-3 web

MM: Do you know if this play has been produced anywhere? I know you said it was the Canadian premiere.

TS: It’s been done once before that we know of, that Paul knows of, and that was as part of a Havel festival in New York.

MM: That’s an exciting thing, that you are one of the first to produce this play. Do you feel like there’s any responsibility to that?

(They pause.)

TS: Yes.

(They laugh.)

HJ: It’s a little nerve wracking. This is the first time we’ve worked on a published play where we’re actually in contact with the translator. I feel like we owe him something. We owe him a good production at the end of the day.

TS: We’ve been in touch with Paul quite a lot. He’s been very supportive. We’ve talked to him about issues in the play, and ways we want to approach it and things like that, and he’s been great, he’s been really on board. But it does put a bit of pressure on us to do justice.

MM: So you’ve been getting some extra insight from the translator then?

HJ: It’s really interesting because he was friends with Havel. So we feel like we have an inside track.

TS: There was one thing we really had to talk to him about. We were like, “Well, we really want to make this little change…”

HJ: Ha! Little change!

TS: And he said, “Hmm. Well, I think Havel would approve!”

HJ: And that was the stamp of approval we needed. And the other reason that we wanted to do this play was a place we were working for… I don’t think we should say where. (She laughs)

TS: Shall we say a branch of the Ontario government?

HJ: Yes, a branch of the Ontario government. And we were going through some rather grotesque bureaucratic nightmares with them and at that time I told Tyler he should read the previous translation. “You’ll love this, this will totally make sense” and he read it and was like, “This is what’s going on in my life right now!” so when we had the opportunity to work on this new translation, we now have an inside track on what it’s trying to say because we’ve gone through something emotionally similar. There’s an emotional resonance in this play that we actually lived through ourselves. And we wanted to do this play several years ago now. As we were trying to get the script and figure out if we had the money to do it, Havel passed away. He passed away in 2011. And all the rights were put on hold. They froze his estate. So we couldn’t perform the play. And it was about a year ago that the agent called and said “You can do it now!”

MM: That’s ironic that just as you’re getting ready to do this play, you end up with bureaucratic red tape in your way.

HJ: Exactly! It’s thematic at least. And now we’ve got the time and we were able to pay the up front costs.

MM: How long ago was the play first written?

HJ: It was first performed in 1965.

MM: Do you think something that isn’t modern or a new play still has a resonance for an audience today?

HJ: It’s kind of creepy that the play was written about Communist Czechoslovakia and it’s like it could have been written today. Part of that is the translation, because Paul is Canadian. But the language doesn’t feel old, and he uses Canadian idioms as well, so it feels modern.

TS: It feels very “of the now”, but what’s fascinating is that the themes of the play, the characters, and bureaucracy hasn’t changed in at least fifty years, probably longer. So, when I read it, I recognized the characters, I’ve worked with these people, and I’ve had to go through these weird situations. Corporate culture is corporate culture. And apparently it’s always been like that. There are arbitrary rules and people who adapt to strange social norms without really thinking about it. Trying to do anything you can to appear busy without actually doing any work is such a running theme in this show, and is very much a theme of the place where I was working at the time. It definitely says something to a modern audience.

HJ: Any time I explain the show to someone, they go “Oh I get that”. I talk about this new language that’s supposed to make things more efficient, and they go “Oh yeah I get that!” I talk to people that were at their place of business when things moved over into computers, and it sounds like the exact same thing. “This is supposed to make your life more efficient” but it ends up causing more problems.

TS: Even the idea of a new language. Havel was in a lot of ways pointing at the Communist party’s corporation of language into propaganda at the time. But you see it today, you see it in corporate culture all the time. I can’t say the word “innovation” anymore without irony to it.

MM: My favourite one is “connectitude”.

TS: And does that mean anything?

MM: It does not!

TS: Exactly! Corporate speak and jargon.

HJ: We’re also seeing it in our government right now with the Fair Elections Act. Is it really about fair elections? And that twist of language.

TS: Or any time a Conservative minister gets up and says, “I’d like to provide some clarity” and you know they’re going to talk about something else. Words don’t mean what they mean anymore. They just use them as noise to confuse everyone and obfuscate and that’s very much in the play. They literally bring in a whole new language that they say is supposed to be more efficient but actually just confuses everyone and causes total chaos.

MemoStillsEditsII-13 web

MM: Why don’t you tell me about your Kickstarter project? 

HJ: We call it the “Give Us an Hour of Your Time” campaign because we’re asking people to donate the equivalent of one hour of their wages. That actually came about as an idea related to a Pay What You Can Performance. People are always confused about how much to pay for PWYC. “I don’t know how much to give you. Is $10 okay?” And now there are signs that state a recommended donation, and I thought, well what is a fair amount to pay? I suppose an hour of my time. I’m going to see a show for an hour or two, so an hour of my time for an hour of entertainment. And then I started joking that it would be great if a CEO came to the show and gave us an hour of his time, because then he’d pay for the whole show. We thought it was an appropriate theme because it’s set in a workplace, so a great thematic tie-in.

TS: Also Havel was a very political author, and there’s a lot of talk right now about the income gap and wage equality and the whole minimum wage debate that went on and is still going on. And we thought, we’re doing a show about workers that is inherently political at a time when that is a resonant thing, so we might as well make a statement with it, in a way that I think Havel would have liked.

MM: I thought your reward levels on your Kickstarter campaign were interesting.

TS: As part of the “Give Us an Hour of Your Time”, we looked at what an hour of different people’s time is worth using some Stats Canada and other publicly available information.

HJ: We had to do some massaging a little bit because there’s no clear hourly wage for say, a lawyer, but it’s all pretty accurate. We started at $10, which is as close to our minimum wage as Kickstarter would let us get (they don’t like decimal points), and then the next step up is average Canadian, who apparently makes $23/hr and then senator at $65, and the 1% threshold, which is shockingly low. Yes, $92/hr is still impressive…

MemoStillsEditsII-10b web

MM: But to think that the people who run our country are making less than $100/hr. makes you think.

HJ: And maybe that’s just in Canada. We don’t have a super wide disparity of wealth and non-wealth.

TS: I think it’s amazing just how big the swath of the 1% is in Canada. ‘Because you do have people who are making like, 30 billion dollars a year, some really obscene figures like that, but you could be one of the top income earners in Canada with less than $100/hr.

HJ: And we have Prime Minister, who makes $154/hr. All these are averaged on a 40 hour work week and a 52 week year, but I know that people work more or less than that.

TS: There’s average lawyer, $301/hr and average CEO who apparently makes $631/hr and the top CEO is something like $7200/hr.

HJ: An hour! AN HOUR! So if just one of those top earner CEOs were to give us an hour of their time, they would give us our Kickstarter goal twice over.

TS: When we were setting our target, we thought, well what do we need to put the show up? And we decided it was about $3500. And when we saw that the top CEO was $7281, we thought, close enough; we’ll just make it half of that, so 30 minutes of a CEOs time will pay for our goal.

HJ: We’re doing this show as an Equity collective, which means that no one is getting paid up front. People only get paid if we cover our expenses and make a profit. And with all the actors and the people behind the scenes, there are 17 people involved. We haven’t done it yet, but I really want to sit down and find out how many hours work hours have gone into this show, so that people can see how much people have already donated of their time to make the show happen. It’s going to be astronomical because we’re looking at over 100 rehearsal hours, multiple people per rehearsal, and then all the time that’s already been put into it. So it’s not unreasonable to ask for an hour of your time considering everything that goes into it.

TS: People seem to be overwhelmed by all the different things that are going on. There are some great projects and ideas on Kickstarter and Indiegogo and GoFundMe and people don’t know what to donate to or don’t know what an appropriate amount is. So we’ve tried to make it simple and maybe fun. If you make $14/hr, then $14 is an appropriate donation.

HJ: It’s funny to see how literally some people are taking it. Some odd dollar amounts are being given to us, and I love it! I love that somebody actually figured out how much they made and decided to contribute. And someone was like, “Well, I’m not a senator, but I like the title, so I’m going to donate at that level”. People are having fun with it, and that’s great.

TS: This is an exciting opportunity to bring to a Toronto stage an author who is so rarely done and in a fresh new translation by a Canadian, so we’re really enthusiastic about the production and hope that people can donate.

The Memo

Written by Václav Havel, translated by Paul Wilson, presented by Thought for Food Productions

The Memo3
When: April 23rd-May 10th
Where: Unit 102 Theatre
Ticketshttp://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/580252
Websitehttp://thought4food.ca/
Facebook Pagehttps://www.facebook.com/pages/Thought-For-Food/18927149356?ref=hl
Kickstarter Campaign Reference (Unfortunately the Kickstarter Campaign has is past its end date but fortunately they exceeded their goal in a 24 hour challenge! BUT… Of course you can still contribute to Thought for Food Productions by BUYING YOUR TICKETS to The Memo IN ADVANCE!)

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1434319692/the-memo-give-us-an-hour-of-your-time-campaign

Steinbeck meets Clown in “Of Mice and Morro and Jasp” – A Chat over Tea with Co-Creators & Performers Heather Marie Annis and Amy Lee

Interview by Madryn McCabe

I had tea on a frigid evening with the talented and wonderful Heather Marie Annis and Amy Lee of Morro and Jasp as they finished each others’ sentences and laughed about their upcoming show, “Of Mice and Morro and Jasp” playing now at the Factory Studio Theatre, January 28th to February 8th.

MM: Why don’t you tell us a little bit about Morro and Jasp?

HMA: Morro and Jasp are clown sisters. Jasp is older.

AL: Yes, she certainly is.

HML: And more bossy. And more particular. And they have been sisters…

AL: And Morro is younger. And more unruly. And flies by the seat of her pants. But loving and free spirited. (Indicates Annis) She plays Morro. We both said a nice thing and a not so nice thing about each others’ character.

HMA: They can’t live with each other or without each other.

AL: Absolutely. They have been growing up over the years. This is our… I can’t really keep track anymore. This is show… maybe eight, nine?

HMA: They’ve gone on a series of adventures. We started out with them performing. Morro and Jasp are the ones writing the plays and putting on the plays.

AL: We help sometimes.

HML: And they’ve grown up through the series of shows that we’ve done since we started. We had three…?

AL: Three shows for young audiences and then they went through puberty, which was awkward and exciting and then they went on different vacations, then they did a cooking show and now they’re tackling a tragedy with Of Mice and Morro and Jasp.

MM: So in doing Of Mice and Morro and Jasp, do we see their growing maturity through the progression of them growing up?

HMA: Yes. And they’re at a stage in their lives where they’re struggling financially, and they’re trying to find their place in the world with jobs and how they’re accepted by society, or not accepted by society.

AL: Figuring out how to make life work. (Looks at Annis) I guess you said that.

HMA: You said it in a different way.

MM: It sounds incredibly relatable. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t say, “What’s my place in the world? How do I figure this out? I need a job!”

AL: And similarly, just how George and Lenny are figuring out where to go and how to make their dream work. The first thing that jumped out for us was that it was such a great pairing. Their relationship is so similar to our relationship and then just figuring out their similarities. George and Lenny’s journey and Morro and Jasp’s journey and how they fit.

HMA: And also to explore the sadness in their lives. The tragic elements, beyond comedy, what else there is.

AL: There are always elements of tragedy in our shows, of course, there has to be both, but we wanted to try and adapt a full on tragedy to see what would happen.

20120219-_DSC0977_2

MM: Is this because the two of you sit down and say “This is what we’re going to do”? What is your process of developing your shows? I’ve heard of some performers who say “There is me, and then there is my clown” and others who say “It’s all me”.

HMA: (laughs) That is an interesting question!

AL: We are IN our clowns, but our clowns…because we’ve been doing them for so long, they really have minds of their own. And a lot of the time, we’ll think something will be a good idea, and when we rehearse as Morro and Jasp, they will let us know. A lot of the time, we’ll try to solve the problem, and we’ll say “Let’s let Morro and Jasp solve it” and they do.

HMA: At the end of the day, your clown character is coming from you and your own individual personality, which is why clown is so specific. With some characters, you can try to replicate them and perform this other person as an actor. I find it’s a little more challenging with clown because it is so specific to your person. So, we are our clowns, but once we get into character and start exploring ideas, we have totally different ideas that will come out in different ways.

AL: It’s about impulses!

HMA: Right. We might not have those as Heather and Amy sitting at a computer coming up with ideas. Theirs will be more! Theirs will be bigger and more exciting and more extreme.

AL: We write our shows in combination with them. We do it, and then we do it in clown, and we go back and forth to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

MM: I want to hear about your cookbook. How did that come to be?

AL: We were doing a show called Morro and Jasp: Go Bake Yourself and it’s our show about cooking. Someone came to see it, and he worked in publishing and said, “Make a book, and we’ll publish it”. Those were our guidelines! We didn’t really have any!

HMA: He totally came to us with the idea. We had said, “Maybe we should make a book, that would be so much fun”. Maybe we just put it out into the universe! He gave us so much freedom. The idea was to make a cookbook combined with other things, because it came out of our cooking show.

AL: We had never planned to make a cookbook, but it was a fun match. And we both love cooking and making food, and food in general and it felt like a good fit. It was a lot of work! We had no idea how much work a cookbook would be!

HMA: The fact that he gave us so much freedom is why it worked for us. We got to discover what form and what content, and everything it would be based on our process and how we went along with it and what discoveries we made along the way. Which isn’t always what you set out to do when you make a book, because I would assume the publisher would dictate it, especially when he came to us with the idea. We didn’t know how long it was going to be either.

AL: Initially, it was supposed to be 60-80 pages, and it ended up being about 235! We just kept getting excited about all the different recipes we could put in!

MM: Are they all your own recipes?

HMA: It’s a combination of some recipes we made up, recipes that we have that we’ve used and loved, a lot of recipes from our families and friends, and some fans.

WxL-es1O

AL: Some fans wrote in and submitted recipes, which is fun.

HMA: Each of the recipes says who it’s from.

AL: It was exciting to see what we would get. And we tested everything.

HMA: Morro and Jasp tested them! (laughs)

AL: Well, we were there to guide the process.

HMA: There are also some recipes from our show, Go Bake Yourself. So it’s connected back to the show.

MM: It’s an extension of the show? A new medium?

AL: Yeah! It doesn’t run the same storyline as the show, but it’s connected.

HMA: There are similar themes about emotion and eating and those are connected. And love, and how food is a way of expressing love.

MM: Now I want to see a Morro and Jasp cooking show on TV.

HMA: So do we! That would be great!

AL: A few people have mentioned that. So we’ll see. We’d be up for it. And I think Morro and Jasp would be too. Jasp would feel like all her dreams came true.

OF MICE

MM: Of Mice and Morro and Jasp is a remount. Has it developed at all since the last time you performed it?

HMA: We’re developing it now! (laughs)

AL: We’re still developing it.

HMA: That’s where we just came from. It’s not that the story of it is changing, there aren’t dramatic rewrites, but we’re fine tuning it. We have more space to play now. At the Toronto Fringe you have a timeline. So now we have more room to breathe, and give the moments more detail. We can infuse a little more energy or breath into them.

AL: We’re coming back and going, “I think we can make this moment better. How can we do that?” “This monologue can be better”. So it’s really nice to be able to fix all the things that we wanted to fix and didn’t have time to. There are a few new elements as well, production elements that we can have.

MM: Like pyrotechnics?

HMA: (laughs)

AL: That would be fun!

HMA: The idea of the show is that times are tough. They’re on a strict budget and they’ve spent their last dollars on their set. No pyrotechnics, unfortunately. Not this time around anyway.

AL: But that is a good idea.

MM: Do you have anything else in the works? What’s next for Morro and Jasp?

AL: Morro and Jasp are in residence at Factory Theatre this season, developing their newest show, Morro and Jasp: 9 to 5, which is about them actually getting jobs. This show [Of Mice and Morro and Jasp] is about them not being able to, and the next show is about them figuring out how to actually make that happen.

HMA: Hold down a job.

AL: So that’s in process. We’re writing that right now. And also right after this show closes, we have a few days, and then we go to Ottawa to the GCTC for the Undercurrents Festival, and we’re performing Morro and Jasp Do Puberty there. Which is exciting because that’s the first in our series of adult shows, so it’s nice to give Ottawa audiences an introduction to us with that one.

MM: In going back to these other shows, are you finding out more and more about Morro and Jasp? Are Morro and Jasp discovering more about themselves?

AL: We always discover more. Every time we do a show, we change things about it. Because we’ve learned a lot about ourselves, we’ve learned a lot about Morro and Jasp, we learn so much more about who they are every time we do a show. That does inform us. We can add more detail and new things.

HMA: And also sometimes we have references or comments about things that are very timely. They’re happening now. So we’ll change them when we go back to a show. And always we’re interacting so much with the audience and the space that we’re in. Storytelling has to be alive and based on that audience and that thing and what they’re saying to you.

MM: Do you prefer that freedom of development of character and story versus an established play and character written by a playwright? Do you need both?

AL: It’s nice to have both.

HMA: They’re so different.

AL: It’s a totally different challenge. It’s nice to be able to practice both. Doing a play with a script written by someone else, whether it be a famous great playwright or someone new, always teaches us as artists a lot. So it’s nice to have the two inform each other constantly. How to bring what you know about making new work into a script that’s written and how to bridge that other kind of work into what we’re making.

HMA: And it’s a completely different exercise in that, with someone else’s script, you’re trying to interpret it and learn what’s already there and what’s hiding underneath and between the lines. With our stuff, it feels like such a rare opportunity to have a character that you enjoy and play with for so long. For, what? Ten years?

AL: Almost ten years, yeah.

HMA: And they’re so close to us because we created them. It’s a very special thing to be able to play with.

AL: We get to keep coming back to the same character and get to see what they will do in new circumstances, a new adventure, but keeping them, them. The nice thing is that there are no limits in terms of what we want to explore, but there are limits in terms of who those characters are and their relationship. That informs everything that happens.

MM: Are there certain things that Morro and Jasp would never do or say?

HMA: Never say never! (laughs) But there are certain things that they aren’t likely to do. They have their boundaries too. And those change and evolve just like anyone else. They’ve become these very dynamic people because they’ve existed for so long.

AL: I really hate it when actors say, “My character would never do that”. A lot of the time I think, “Just make it work”, but with this, Jasp, say, wouldn’t be happy wearing a pair of baggy pants. But it might be fun to see what happens when you put her in a pair of baggy pants.

HMA: So with those boundaries, it helps us put them into situations that they hate, which is funny. That’s what good theatre is, dynamics. So the more that we found out what they hate or love, the more we can play with the dynamic.

MM: To wrap up, in three words, why should people come to see Of Mice and Morro and Jasp?

(whispered consultation)

AL: Steinbeck meets clown. You’ve got to find out what that means!

Of Mice and Morro and Jasp
20120219-_DSC0953

Created and performed by Heather Marie Annis and Amy Lee
Directed by Byron Laviolette
Presented by Up your Nose and In your Toes (U.N.I.T.) Productions & Factory Theatre

When: January 28th – February 8th, Tues-Sat 8pm, Thurs 1pm, Sat 2pm

Where: Factory Studio Theatre

Tickets: $25 Regular Price, $20 Student, Senior, Arts Worker
http://www.factorytheatre.ca/what-s-on/of-mice-and-morro-and-jasp/